We left with a team of twelve people for a full day’s, dirt road drive to Mari Bel. It was my third visit here, west of Altamira about 250 km, on the Iriri River. For many on the trip, including three young women from Colorado, it was their first excursion deep into the rain forest. They had heard stories about this region and the challenges it presented, with no running water or even outhouses, simple homes with thatched roofs, dirt floors, and no furniture, and unusual cuisine. The trip, in spite of all the challenges, was pretty special. One of the reasons it was special was the pleasant, tolerant attitudes of these women.
We had nightly services which proved to be quite beautiful, from a kingdom perspective. We showed a movie each night under the stars, called “Final Exit”, using benches, a bed sheet for a screen, a generator for power, and an amplifier for sound. This movie communicated very well, in a thought-provoking manner, both the truth of Jesus’ truth and grace, and the truth of our human nature. The river folks were captured by the movie and there were many sober responses to the call for the viewers to open their hearts to a real Jesus for the first time or for a renewal of a neglected relationship with a God that they once knew. If you have an opportunity to view this movie, or to share it with a friend who isn’t sure about Jesus, I would encourage you to do so.
The Brasilian pastors among us had several opportunities to sit and disciple new hungry hearts, teaching and answering questions. This is a rare opportunity for people living so remotely. Luke and I translated the testimonies of Katie, Nicki, and Sarah, the women visiting from Colorado. Their testimonies were about relationships, brokenness, and the transformation that encountering Jesus brings, all things that even these remote people could relate to. I also shared a brief testimony of Jesus rescuing me and the local folks seemed to understand me in spite of my simple Portuguese. Luke led worship each night, with two Brasilian girls singing as he played guitar. He did very, very well in his various roles while on the trip and he was, once again, simply a joy to work with. It was a dream of mine in coming to the remote Amazon Basin to work with my family sharing Jesus’ love with the people of the region. To see this become a reality is a profound joy for this beggar as I, with my son, travel most remotely, seeking to draw others hungry, to the Bread of Life.
We had a sweet moment one evening as everyone at the service sang “Happy Birthday” to Luke in their language, and we all prayed for him. It was really, really cool. What a way for a fourteen year old to celebrate a birthday – watching a movie in the middle of the jungle, swatting mosquitoes, leading worship, and laying hands on and praying for river people wanting to know Jesus.
During the trip, we sampled a variety of river cuisine. We ate turtle several times and daily ate raw turtle eggs as it was the time of year that these eggs were incubating in the sand. These are quite a treat for the locals but it took us some getting used to even with a lot of added sugar! It was fun doing the egg hunts on the remote beaches, finding the bunches of eggs buried in the sand. We ate a small crocodile killed by the local men with a harpoon. We ate paca, a common, large jungle rodent, piranha, and many other different types of large fish. The rivers in this area are just teeming with fish (especially peacock bass, a prized trophy fish for foreigners), and it’s quite easy to catch fish 2-3 kg and larger.
Early one morning I stood and watched several groups of monkeys playfully scampering among the treetops. We saw crocodiles (some close to us but always wary of us), pileated woodpeckers (one of my favorite birds – the “woody woodpecker” type), toucans, various types of hummingbirds, and the ever-present, strikingly beautiful mackaws.
It was a wonderful trip, working amidst God’s simply awesome creation and seeing many connect with the God that made them as well as these miraculous surroundings. It was quite special for a father to experience the same with his dearly beloved son.
The word of my Father for me through these women was “attitude”. The attitudes they brought to this rough excursion is what made it so pleasurable. A little bit of focus on the difficulties and inconveniences, even in humor, would have made the trip more difficult. They, instead, brought easy smiles, pleasant conversation, honest questions, and transparent hearts. They were such a pleasure to be with as they loved the brasilians, loved us, soaked up the wilderness experience, and tolerated the humble circumstances with an ever-present joy, and without a word of complaint. I’m learning that the attitude of our heart is always important, radiating from us unseen as either a sweet fragrance or a repelling odor, affecting all we come in contact with. This attitude of our hearts takes on greater tangible significance as our circumstances become more challenging, especially when working as part of a body, where the health of one part truly affects all other parts. One word of complaint or criticism or one word of encouragement or kindness, can literally steer a team in one direction or another. Our attitudes affect our words and, perhaps more importantly, our nonverbal communication, which hold power beyond that which we typically acknowledge, but is so real, nonetheless.
Jesus, please search me today, and reveal any attitude in me that needs to be laid before you to die. Fill me with your Spirit again, that your attitude of love and deference may spill out of me to all those you bring across my path. Thank you for bringing people into my life that remind me of my desperate need to remain intimate with you so that my words and attitudes will always be filled with your grace, building up the hearer, and offering thanksgiving for each miraculous moment that I can be in your service and care.